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The Charwoman's Shadow by Lord Dunsany
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The Charwoman's Shadow (1926)

by Lord Dunsany

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Chronicles of Shadow Valley (2)

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478121,584 (3.96)11
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Ramon Alonzo is a young man who has been sent to live with, and learn from, a famous wizard. He is only interested in how to turn base metals into gold. His sister is engaged to be married, and the family hopes that a small chest full of gold will suffice as a dowry.

While studying with the wizard, Ramon meets an elderly charwoman who has no shadow. The wizard took it many years ago, and refuses to give it back, keeping it in a locked box. She is basically trapped at the castle; she was chased out of the nearby village years before as some sort of demon, because of her lack of shadow. In a moment of chivalry, Ramon vows to retrieve her shadow. The charwoman urges Ramon to never, ever give up his shadow.

As part of his teaching fee, the wizard demands Ramon’s shadow, but replaces it with a fake shadow that looks, and acts, like the real thing. Ramon figures that he has gotten a great deal; the ability to create gold for nothing. That is, until the day that Ramon is also chased out of the local village as some sort of monster. The problem with his fake shadow is that it does not shrink or grow depending on the time of day; it is the same size, all the time.

Ramon receives a letter from home, and is told to forget the gold; make a love potion, instead. He creates one on his own, and during a visit home, it is given to a visiting Duke. The potion nearly kills the Duke, and causes great embarrassment to the family. He is bedridden for several days, during which time Ramon’s sister is the only one who can get near him. In the meantime, back at the castle, with much patience and diligence, Ramon finds the combination to the box of shadows. He releases several shadows, including his own, and that of a young woman. He brings it to the charwoman, not knowing if it is the right one; it is. Ramon figures that the shadow of the young woman will turn into an elderly crone. To his delight, the transformation goes the other way, and the charwoman turns into a young woman. After they escape from the wizard, the next problem concerns Ramon’s family. Since she is not of noble blood, will they accept her as Ramon’s bride?

From the first few paragraphs, the reader will know that they are in the hands of a master. Dunsany is generally considered the most influential author in the entire fantasy field. Stories like this will justify such a claim. It is very well done from beginning to end, and will get the reader looking at their shadow in a whole new way. ( )
  plappen | Jul 8, 2007 |
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» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lord Dunsanyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bakker, DjoekeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Weston, SteveCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Picture a summer evening sombre and sweet over Spain, the glittering sheen of leaves fading to soberer colours, the sky in the west all soft, and mysterious as low music, and in the east like a frown.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345431928, Paperback)

An old woman who spends her days scrubbing the floors might be an unlikely damsel in distress, but Lord Dunsany proves once again his mastery of the fantastical. The Charwoman's Shadow is a beautiful tale of a sorcerer's apprentice who discovers his master's nefarious usage of stolen shadows, and vows to save the charwoman from her slavery.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:42:15 -0400)

A young sorcerer's apprentice, having discovered his master's ability to control shadows, attempts to break the bonds of servitude and rescue the charwoman who spends her days scrubbing his master's floors

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